Matching grants to strengthen communities

Providing funding that matches - in cash or in kind - community resources builds community capacity and capabilities, as well as improving community infrastructure. 

What are matching grants?

Matching grants provide funds (or goods/services in kind) that match funds (or goods/services) raised by the community. They can involve large sums of money but often take the form of smaller grants to grassroots community groups or initiatives. Matching grants can be used as a community-building tool, offering funding to groups regardless of whether or not they are incorporated or have public liability insurance. Matching grants can have a very simple structure. For example, a grantmaker might invite applications for grants of up to, say, $5000 to match funds already raised by the community. Alternatively the structure can be more complex. For example, a grantmaker might make a grant of $100,000, and offer a further $100,000 if the grantee can raise an additional $100,000 themselves in the 12 months after being awarded the grant. 

What are the benefits of a matching grants program?

  • It empowers the community to identify and implement projects, creating a sense of ownership and commitment. 
  • It establishes partnerships between grantmaker and grantees.
  • It can strengthen relationships within the community. 
  • It can improve both the physical and lifestyle characteristics of a neighbourhood.
  • It generates social capital (the connections within and among groups that enable trust and cooperation).
  • It encourages community groups to be sustainable by ensuring that they are not reliant on only one source of funding.

What are the nuts and bolts of a matching grants program?

  • You can establish program goals that applications are required to contribute to, such as: 
    • urban renewal 
    • cultural diversity 
    • community service 
    • arts and culture 
    • heritage/history 
    • environment/conservation
  • Use funding cycles if that is the best way for you to run your program, but be aware that grassroots groups not used to applying for grants will not be familiar with funding cycles. Their enthusiasm for an initiative may fade if they have to wait a long time for a grant round. Consider making cycles quarterly to maintain momentum. 
  • Encourage potential applicants to flag ideas with you before submitting an application. This can help to ensure eligibility and enable you to provide advice before submission.
  • If community groups ask for advice about where to find the dollars that your grant will match, point them to Our Community's Funding Centre. It will help them to consider donations, grants, community-business partnerships, membership, special events and earned income.
  • Be aware that funding unincorporated groups can be risky. From a legal perspective, it is often unclear exactly who, you are entering into an agreement with. Unincorporated groups may also lack the experience and capacity of incorporated groups. Take your time considering the risks and look for ways to manage them.

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